What the NFL Can Teach Sales Leaders About Finding Talent (Lesson for Sales Leaders)

Do you have a clear, defined, approach to identifying talent?  How do you know when you have the killer candidate in front of you?  What do you do to separate the good from the bad, the on paper superstar from the actual superstar? Do you have a talent identification process?

The NFL draft is coming up soon and the talent identification process of NFL teams is unmatched.  To identify talent for the draft, NFL teams go through countless hours of video, in person game attendance, personal interviews, tests, and of course the NFL combine, where prospective players work out for the coaches and scouts. The combine is a day of physical tests that measure speed, strength, vertical jump, agility, etc of potential draft picks. At the end of all this analysis, NFL teams make their choice and draft the best players available to them. This is the NFL’s talent or player identification process. It’s good.

So what’s your’s?

If it’s like most, it’s a series of interviews; a couple of interviews with you, one with someone from product, one with someone with marketing, maybe one with an HR representative, maybe one with a couple of the team members, and maybe one with CEO, or COO or head of sales, if that’s not you. But, unfortunatley, for most companies and most sales organizations that’s the extent of the process. Making matters worse, the interviews are rarely nothing more than handing the candidates resume to the interviewer and asking them what they think.  The entire approach usually ends up being a rubber stamp process and the hiring manager makes a decision based on their gut.

The traditional approach to finding talent is a matter subtraction not addition. Candidates are sourced and evaluated on what they don’t have. If they don’t have 20 years of experience out. If they do something odd in the interview they are out. If they haven’t been in the industry, they are out. If they haven’t been a manager before, they are out. We subtract then hire who is left. Not the best way to go about things.

The key to finding the best sales talent is to have a process that identifies the best talent for the role you trying to fill.  It’s to figure out who can do what you need the better than anyone else. The key is to focus on what the person does have and how that fits into what you are trying to achieve in the positon.  The NFL is VERY good at this part. Teams know what type of running back or cornerback or lineman they need. The know the difference between a 3 down back vs a blocking back vs. a receiving running back. They know which type of back they need to become a better team.

In order to be as precise as an NFL team you need a process like theirs. You need a measurable, identifiable, repeatable process that gets you the best person to do what you need done, to make your organization better.

There are no rules on what the approach should look like. However, what ever your approach is, it should include the following elements;

  1. A clear and documented description of the hard AND soft skills you are looking for and why
  2. A clear understanding and documentation of what the role needs to be successful. (Don’t tell me it’s 10 years of success selling software, cause it’s NOT.)
  3. A clear understanding of what you will be measuring in the role
  4. A clear understanding of how the role fits into the overall sales and go to market strategy
  5. A documented approach to scoring and measuring the candidates ability to kill it
  6. An interview score card listing EXACTLY what you are scoring the candidate on, so other interviewers know what you are looking to assess, so they can provide feedback in those areas
  7. A measurable way to evaluate the skills you are looking for. (It’s important to know HOW you are testing for the skills)
  8. Have a list of red flags, things that stand out and could be signs that despite what might be a good candidate, there could be hidden problems

Identifying talent is critical. It’s a leaders job to be able to identify the best talent; not the best resume, not the best interviewer, but the best person for getting the job done.

Be like the NFL and create a comprehensive talent identification process. It will make all the difference.

If you have one, share it. We’d love to see it.  (hit me up if you’d be interested in being doing a guest post on it.)

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